Southport residents who want to hear Sefton Council’s excuses for buying Bootle Strand shopping centre through a £32 million offshore company deal will get the chance this Thursday evening when the Council meeting is held in Southport Town Hall.

Southport‘s newest councillor, Dr John Pugh, has tabled a motion for debate at Thursday’s meeting expressing concern at the Council’s purchase of the shopping centre through a Luxembourg-based company in a Stamp-Duty-free deal. Former Southport MP Dr Pugh is also calling in his motion for “the contract of sale and additional documents to be made available, without redaction or delay, to all members of the Council.”

Liberal Democrat and independent councillors have been calling for proper scrutiny of the deal since the day they first heard of it – but have been completely shut out by the Labour-only Cabinet who claim ‘commercial confidentiality’. 

Councillor Tony Dawson is one of those who has put in a series of questions about the costs and benefits of the deal which have, to date, gone unanswered.

“Councillors are meant to scrutinise the actions of the executive,” Councillor Dawson says, “and to do that job properly requires information. All councillors are honour bound to retain confidentiality about any confidential information which they receive unless there is criminality exposed or something similar.”

“We are told that this deal is going to rake in a profit for the council. I very much hope that will be true. However, Sefton Council’s record over trying to manage commercial activity does not survive much scrutiny. The recent heavy losses on the Indoor Market are a case in point. So, Councillors need to see these figures, not to spread them around but to take a view as to whether public money is being used wisely.”

Councillors are also enraged about how the falsehood that there had been ‘all party support’ for the New Strand Purchase deal got conveyed to regional and national media.

“Everyone is saying ‘not me guvnor!'” says Councillor Dawson “but this simply will not wash.”Dozens of councillors were not only kept in the dark about this purchase, they were thrown out of the Cabinet Meeting where the decision was officially taken and their questions afterwards were thrown in the bin. A handful of hand-picked councillors were given a briefing on what had happened after the decision had been taken. That is not support, it is not involvement and it is not consultation. There has not even been proper information. What we have had is Sefton Labour Party ‘mushroom management’.”  

Residents wishing to listen to the debate, the meeting starts at 6.30 pm with prayers.